Wednesday 19 December 2018

A "No Deal" Brexit - a personal view by Robin Burn

Wise men, and many not so wise men, for decades, and in the case of Nostradamus tens of decades, have expended copious quantities of energy in postulation as to the demise of mankind, the world, the fate of nations, principally their demise.
We remain.
We only have to cast our minds back to the reams of documentation and discussion as to the fate of the world on the effect of the Millennium bug and the billions of pounds Euros and dollars spent on the totally unnecessary replacement of IT equipment . The marketing was brilliant.

The result of a leave decision of the 2016 referendum was prophesied by the Remainers was to be a total collapse of the UK economy. The opposite was a result of the vote to leave.
Now we have the dedicated singled minded Remainers prophesying the same result of a "No Deal Brexit".

The reality of the situation is, and always has been, that, the resilience of the nation overcomes whatever adversity comes their way.
For too long, the reaction of those individuals who find themselves on the wrong side of the argument and decisions made ,resort to the malicious use of fear scaremongering to present their arguments.

 Westminster Debate

This nation, and I include those of Scotland and Wales, and that on the Northern side of the Border in Ireland, have served these islands with the ability to create wealth and prosperity. Firstly the wool trade, then came industrialisation, coal, fuelled the rest of the world, engineering gave mechanical power to produce commodities, advances in medicine served the populous, advances in science created modern technology, the list goes on.

We need to fear nothing, as a scientist and engineer, I am proud to be counted amongst my fellows who served and those serving this nation. Remember this country exported not only its goods but its ideas, to the benefit of Industrial nations around the world.
This nation survived two major debilitating world wars, and prospered after each.

Ingenuity and inventiveness served us well.

There may well be a short-term negative effect with a "No Deal Brexit".However for the reasoning debated above,long term prosperity will resume.

It’s time that those who profess that they only serve the peoples’ interest, do so , grasp the opportunity presented to this nation and practise what they preach.

Robin Burn I Eng FIMMM

Monday 17 December 2018

Llanelli City Deal Swamped ?

City Deals are a UK government project to stimulate economic growth by allowing local government and local businesses to invest in city based projects. They are part of a policy produced by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition in Westminster and were designed as agreements between the UK Government and UK Cities. The UK Government issues a large grant and permission to borrow a much larger sum of money. Private companies are to match fund the investment.
The problem for Wales is that we have no large cities by European Standards. It is true that sizeable cities appear to generate much of the economic growth in Western Economies. So areas without big city hubs have, in their City Deal type schemes, been encouraged to pretend that they are big cities or large, populous regions equivalent to cities, and embrace these deals on the same sort of terms, presumably expecting the same promised benefit.
How has this gone so sour in Llanelli? What went wrong when our small, post industrial town was joined up with the Swansea Bay City Deal by Carmarthenshire County Council in the hope of being mistaken for a part of a vibrant and growing City?
Delta Lakes - before development

Proposed Wellness project - what might have been

These deals were offered  by the UK  government in “partnership” with local government and in our area are run by the County Councils of Neath Port Talbot, Swansea, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire under the overall leadership of our Carmarthenshire Chief Executive, Mark James.
In Llanelli the Delta Lakes Wellness Centre proposal, already once rejected at Welsh Government Level, was resurrected to take advantage of this “free” money.
However, something has gone wrong. Perhaps the County Councillors should have been suspicious about the lack of a business plan when they were asked to approve the whole plan. My only claim to fame is that I was the only councillor to vote against it. Captivated by the promise of jobs, my colleagues were seduced into supporting a project with little evidence that it could deliver anything.
I recall former Council leader, Meryl Gravell in a full council meeting ,confidently explaining that the wealthy people on the new coastal housing estates close to the Project site would use the fitness and private medical facilities ,while poorer people from South Llanelli would have jobs in cleaning, maintenance, security and social care.
This was never submitted as a business case. The actual business case document has only recently emerged but has not been seen by anyone except the Plaid Cymru led Council Executive Board and the senior council officers. The author of the document has been suspended by Swansea University. How much of a fairy story it is we should soon find out.
Later Mark James would remark that a drug company was interested in the site as the nearby stable population was ideal for testing new drugs. Again, no actual evidence put forward. The promised new jobs rose from “up to 400” to "over 2000" , again without detail or explanation. Maybe the business case, when released after the investigations, will reveal all, or perhaps nothing..
The local Health Boards and Universities were “on Board” but not in any position to help fund the expensive project. The “private partner” turned out to be a company in debt and  apparently without access to the millions needed to match fund the deal.
The problem now is that the project is on hold due to concerns about the viability and propriety of the deal. The County Council are now reassuring us that they can deliver the project in other ways. The question is whether this ever was a good deal at all? Hopefully the truth will out as external investigations now underway reveal what was really going on?

My experience of the Public Sector , in both County Council and in the Welsh NHS, is that these questionable  financial plans are accepted because there are no serious adverse consequences when disasters happen. Many mishaps are just covered up. A leading manager might move on, a chair may resign but no one faces court or serious professional injury. Be a whistle blower as I was in the NHS and your career is trashed. I've seen whistle blowers in the Council suffer the same fate.

Our politicians moan about austerity but  turn a blind eye to massive misappropriation and misuse of public money in institutions supposedly under the control of the Welsh Government. It has to stop.

Siân Caiach

Monday 3 December 2018

Membership of which empire? What do we want for Christmas?


Currently Plaid Leader Adam Price is claiming that the EU is the place for Wales to be. The gist is  that if you need to be a vassal state [and Wales has a great history and experience of  being one] then the European Union is more friendly and cuddly than the United Kingdom. "We clearly are leaving the wrong union" he says.
Love Padlocks on the Rhine today - is one from Adam?

Presumably Adam wishes Wales to rejoin the EU after Brexit, following gaining independence from the UK.


Plaids Cymru's' current policy is for its MP's to reject any Brexit deal in Westminster, support a "Peoples' Vote"and/or vote down the UK government to have a general election, even though current polls show Plaid is likely to lose 1 seat if this comes to pass. Not the greatest game plan unless Plaid can quickly turn around their current fortunes. and a Peoples Vote is viable anyway.

Since the 2016 Brexit referendum the E.U. have shown their true colours towards secession in supporting the central government of Spain against Catalan separatists, even when the separatists declared their intention of staying in the EU after their eventual Independence.

 Surely the cosy Plaid Cymru opinion that the E.U. loves minorities, their languages and culture and rights to self determination should be shattered? Apparently Adam is all for the cute fairy story EU and believes an independent Cymru should, certainly rejoin the controlling and centrist EU monolith super state the EU currently craves to be.


Ah, say Plaid Cymru, Wales has changed its mind on Brexit, with polls now showing an about turn on the County's decision to leave the EU. In fact the results show a 50/50 picture with the leavers split into 30% for "hard" Brexit and 20% for "soft" Brexit,  Considering the variations between polls and results last time no-one can be certain of reversing Brexit through the " Peoples Vote"

 Theresa May maybe has the worst of all worlds with her current" deal" .The "Peoples Vote" want 3 options on their ballot :-(1), remain in the EU, (2) have a soft Brexit, or (3) a hard Brexit. No-one will spot that this is rather a biased choice.designed to split the pro-Brexit vote. That 's not going to happen. A straight, binary choice is s political gamble few mainstream politicians will risk. A general election may not resolve anything, and the issues are crammed with opinion, pouring  a confusing fog over what may or may not be the Brexit game today.


I suspect that despite the declarations of the E.U. negotiators declaring that this is the final offer, it is not, and Brexit, hard or soft, will be achieved rather than a reversal of the referendum vote. My only solid information on that opinion comes from a local bookmaker who can at least see where the bets are being placed and on his results, the money says we are leaving.

 However we peasants in Wales are powerless  as we can only watch  MP's  perform a poorly choreographed and clumsily executed dance of  Brexit gambits and wait to eventually observe the as yet unpredictable results. All of us may only be spectators, but the line has surely been drawn and the curse cast?.

Donkey or golden calf anyone ? 
 Siân Caiach

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Post Brexit Our Welsh Labour Government may truly change the face of Wales

Farming is important to almost all of Wales. Only one constituency, Cardiff Central, has no farms. Brexit gives an opportunity to change farming policy, but the current suggestion of our Welsh Labour Government is likely to cause considerable harm. Trees do need to be planted and even commercial forestry is said to be falling behind in replanting  stocks. Trees have many benefits to the environment but trees, like any crop, to have maximum survival and growth rates, need care and husbandry. Sites need to be suitable and training given. All this should be properly funded. After planting the retention of the trees depends on further funding.But bringing in schemes in haste and cutting other farming subsidies could cause farming businesses to fail and the loss of distinctive countryside, livestock and food production and all the businesses who rely on Agriculture will be affected. .  

The speed of the change and the rest of the UK and the EU still being subsided by farm payments puts our farmers at a disadvantage. Planting trees is generally a good idea,but planting them quickly on a huge scale and taking away subsidies for ordinary food producing farming may not  be so clever when our neighbours and competitors still keep the current payments and as a result produce their food cheaper. Labour believe all farmers in Wales will probably vote Plaid or Conservative. No loss to the Labour vote then, if farms go under due to this policy?.

Our farmlands now - will it be all trees soon?
The Welsh Government consultation closes on the 30th October. But is it really listening? 
Gwyn Wigley Evans has issued this press release below and asks that friends of farming  complete the consultation and give their opinions.
 Siân Caiach, 


Farming as we know it in Wales is about to disappear and it's all down to Lesley Griffiths from Her Majesty's Government in Wales
All 27 countries in Europe along with Scotland and Northern Ireland will be keeping the BASIC PAYMENT SCHEME (BPS) which is the lifeline to farmers on the Uplands in particular
A committee which was composed of mainly environmental groups, NRW (forestry commission to you and me, in new expensive clothing) and the traitorous CLA have come up with a unique formula to save agriculture after Brexit
Quite the opposite, they want to plant trees, 150,000 acres, which will get rid of 1,400 farms, it's the Highland clearance again (Scotland are not going down this road) with the devastation that will cause........... and they still want to produce food!
The countryside as you know it will disappear in large tracts of Our Nation/Ein Gwlad and their communities
The closing date for the consultation is 30th OCTOBER (next Monday)
I have filled the form  and I attach it for anyone to see
The questions have been formulated to give the answer they want.
The link is below to fill the consultation, please get as many people as you can to do so and help the farming community that is so vital the length and breadth of Your Nation
Thank you all

Gwyn Wigley Evans
Agriculture Spokesman

Monday 22 October 2018

Carmarthenshire Flooding, Global warming, and Thermodynamics by Robin Burn

Robin Burn explains the 
science behind the weather.

 President Trump has finally announced his change of mind,on the subject of global
warning, with the caveat that although he nowbelieves it is happening ,but doubts that
 man's interventions are the primary cause.

It may well be he has, along with myself, read the well reasoned article published on line by
 Eric R Pianka (1),  entitled Global Warming.It may also be that President Trump has
acquainted himself with the fundamental laws of physics, that rule everything that happens in
 the universe.

The existence of energy and gravity control the workings of everything that has happened for
 more that 10 billion years, and continues to happen and effect the working of our solar
 system for at least another 4 billion years.That is the length of time remaining until our sun
finally changes into a giant star and engulfs the planets including  our own in its death throws.

Pianka goes on to remind us that physics and chemistry have given us two Laws of
Thermdynamics: the first deals  with conservation of matter, and energy,while the second
 deals with increase in randomness (entropy).

 Pianka is quite firm in his assertiveness when he states, that, whilst some people seem to
think humans are  exempt from physical laws, we are not. An understanding of basic
 thermodynamics is essential to grasp the full  implications of energy usage by humans.

The first law"conservation of matter and energy" states that matter and energy cannot be
created or destroyed. Matter and energy can be converted from one form into another, but
the total of the equivalent amounts of both must always remain constant. Light can be
changed into heat,kinetic energy,and /or potential energy.

Whenever energy is converted from one form or another,some of it is given off as heat, which
is the most random  form of energy. Use of any form of energy produces waste heat.Unless
 this waste heat can be dissipated, temperature rises.

The only energy conversion that is 100 per cent efficient is conversion to heat,or burning.
 Dried organisms can be burned in "bomb calorimeters" to determine how much energy can
 be stored in their tissues. Energy can be measured in a variety of different units, such as
ergs, or joules,but heat energy or calories is the common  denominator. 

Solar energy falls on Earth's surface at any given place and time,creating heat.Unless this
same amount of heat is  dissipated back into space, Earth will warm. Conversely, if more heat
 is re-radiated back out into space than is  received , the planet cools down.

Earth's atmosphere used to be in a complex equilibrium. Certain gases in the atmosphere,
especially carbon dioxide prevent re-radiation of longer infrared wavelengths generated by
incident radiation,holding heat in, thus warming the planet ,the so called greenhouse effect.

The concentration of carbon dioxide has risen steadily over the last 40 years, and continues
to rise due to deforestation and burning of fossil fuels. Global warming could have arrived
sooner except for an increase in particulate matter increasing atmospheric pollution between
1940-1970,allowing less solar energy to penetrate to the surface. The balance shifted during
the 1970's enhancing the greenhouse effect leading to rapid global warming.

Up until approximately 10,000 years ago the earth was generally in thermal balance , the
glaciation or cooling  period, and deglaciation, the warming period creating the thermal
balance, happening approximately every 100,000  years.The alterations in the earths orbital
distance from the sun, Milanovitch cycles, as well as slight changes of the  earth's angle of tilt
 away from the vertical, were responsible for the periodic glaciation and deglaciation.

The event 10,000 years ago is significant in as much as this was considered to coincide with
agriculturisation of human activity. Deforestation was the key process of this change of human
 activity from being hunter gatherers to farmers..

As an aside from 1620 onward with the advent of European colonisation of the Northern
 American landmass, mass deforestation has removed nearly all of the virgin forest
During the glaciation /deglaciation periods, methane, a greenhouse gas, was either trapped,
 or contained during  the glaciation period, and subsequently released during the deglaciation

Now because of the consequence of global warming over the last 10,000 years, accelerating
 from deforestation, and enhanced over last 200 years of industrial activity worldwide, more
 trapped methane is being released ,contributing to an ever acceleration of global warming.

It well be the result that the tipping point is unfortunately behind us and reversal of global
 warming unobtainable . The world human population now exceeds 8 billion, and the rise is
 accelerating. Industrialisation is  generating increasing global wealth, leading to this human
population expansion,creating the need for ever growing resource usage. Energy to support
this growth is now being generated by the switch from carboniferous use to natural
occurring solar, wind, and hydro energy. However the ability to do this depends on the ever
increasing usage of the  power plant and the need to replace redundant carbon burning power

Unfortunately until the industrial nations can generate enough  power from solar, wind and
hydro stations, we have  to continue with the usage of fossil fuels to supply the building of non
carbon using power plants to replace fossil fuel usage.

A radical change of thinking is required. For instance the increasingly popular carbon dioxide
 removal from the atmosphere  concept will not be possible in the short term due to the
amounts needed to be removed, removal of gigatons of carbon dioxide is not energetically

The world needs to consume less energy.

A recent report that the creation of ultra large solar energy farms in the sub Sahara regions
 has actually altered the  local climate. More rain is falling in the regions where solar farms
 exist allowing for revegetation. and food  production.

(1.) Eric R Pianka; Global Warming

Wednesday 10 October 2018

The human cost of poor maternity services -too many dead babies and many more may be damaged too - Robin Burn.

Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr Tydful 
Twenty stillbirths and six cases of babies dying shortly after birth are part of  a Cwm Taf Health Board inquiry, October 2018. Cwm Taf serves several very deprived valleys' communities.

The journey of human birth is said to be the most dangerous in human life. Its a shame that in the modern health care system catastrophic life changing and even fatal mistakes are being made and subsequently repeated. Here Robin Burn explains how damage occurs if problems during birth are not picked up and action taken.

Again and again the same patterns recur. In 2007, the Royal college of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists inquiry “Each baby counts, examined more than 700 recent neonatal deaths and injuries.

It reported that 3 out of every 4 babies may have had a different outcome, had they received different care.

This revelation has been a long time coming, and the results are not surprising, as this phenomenon has been recognised for over 20 years.

The report recently released, examined 1136 stillbirths, neonatal deaths and brain injuries during 2015. In many of the 727 cases reviewed in depth, problems with accurate assessment of foetal well-being during labour, and consistent issues with staff understanding and processing of complex situations, including interpreting baby heart-rate patterns, were cited as significant factors.

In his book, published in 2003,entitled “Children who do not look you in the eye, The Secrets of Autistic Behaviour”,Professor Antonio Parisi, a neurophysio-pathologist, working at the University of Naples, discusses in length the prenatal causes of encephalitic disturbance (brain injury) in the Chapter entitled “Etio -pathogenesis of autism” p 41 (1)

Parisi, commenting in his book, particularly concentrated on hypoxia (lack of oxygen) following too rapid or over lengthy labour, leading to brain damage, despite the natural protection of the brains of new-born babies should be less vulnerable to to a lack of oxygen than those of adults. Hypoxia is also the cause of brain injury during delivery (associated with the use of forceps or suction devices) and other neurological effects such as autism. Hypoxia is undoubtedly the most risky factor. Dystocia (problems slowing birth) can also accentuate this process.

This is a common occurrence in the case of autistic children, says Parisi, “Our research team often encounters one cause of brain injury which seams to provoke similar vulnerability to a second pathogenic cause of brain injury. Most cases of brain injury occur around birth.

This is an extremely important finding and suggests that still not enough is done to prevent brain injury during delivery in some UK hospital delivery units.

(1)  Parisi, Antonio, Children who do not look you in the eye,

The secrets of autistic behaviour.

      Napoli: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane,2003.

      ISBN 88-8114-0597-3

Dr.Antonio Parisi, assists Dr. David Delacato at the Delacato Clinics

in Sorrento and Milan for the rehabilitation of children and adults on

the autistic disorder spectrum existing since the 1970’s.

Robin Burn I Eng FIMMM

Sunday 7 October 2018

Building homes as power stations, but in the service of their residents not power companies! by Robin Burn IEng. FIMMM

Power to and from the people

The subject of production of  power in the form of electricity has been discussed on this blog on a previous occasion and the author is pleased to report that the United Kingdom Government has increased the amount of development support, for the future construction of nuclear powered electricity, from already available small pressure water reactors technology.

It has recently come to this authors attention that experimental development of mini power generators closer to home is well under way. (1) 

The same source advises that "new solar power installation in the UK hashalved for the second year running in 2017 with new solar capacity falling to 4.1 GW in 2015 to 0.95 GW in 2017"

The report lists barriers to solar investment, claiming that 'Operation of inflexible centralised power generation technology is often still being strongly over-subsidised,like the UK's Hinkley Point C nuclear plant,while self-consumed solar power is being inappropriately highly taxed.

The mini power generation stations proposed are in fact the homes of the people 

The experimental work,is being carried out by academics and researchers  from Swansea University UK,who have shown that,given the right circumstances,using existing and industry approved construction techniques,along with solar power generation,and lithium ion battery storage systems,can generate more power than can be used. To date an experimental prototype mock up has produced half as much electricity again over consumption.

The progress of technology,being applied to the production of more efficient solar power collectors, both in cost and conversion efficiency,makes for a more sensible means of the generation of electrical power.
Usage of energy is at the source of production,eliminates the need for inefficient,transmission systems vastly increases carbon reductions and decreases the use of non renewable fuels and is not  subjected to power outages of any form.

As such technology is incorporated into house building practise, costs will reduce with the increased usage of new technology. Thisidea has been suggested for the Neath Port Talbot area of the Swansea Bay City Deal

Artist's impression of the new homes

A transfer of government subsidies to reduce house building costs incorporating "in house" power generation,rather than build new power stations,will, by default, give rise to much needed house building programmes.

New research is being carried out to improve solar power to electrical power conversion rates reducing manufacturing costs,by printing of  solar cells onto plastic film,and the use of new material for solar cells.
Improved energy conservation by better insulation as well as improving power storage techniques systems make for more energy efficient . Up to now green energy has been exploited by various subsidy grabbers and financiers, often to the detriment of those whose homes can produce power.

Time now to give real "Power to the people !"

  1. Source;Materials World, Volume 26, Number 8

Monday 1 October 2018

David Conrad Rees

David Conrad Rees 1941 to 2018
A man who fought fearlessly for his community, exposed corruption and wrongdoing and took the UK government to court – and won!

David Rees 

David Rees died in August 2018 from a brain tumour after a brief illness. He was 77. After his retirement he enjoyed life. He loved walking and trips with his wife Rose, home improvements, looking after his garden and protecting his community from exploitation and pollution. David was a founding member of People First – Gwerin Gyntaf and served as the Party’s nominating officer.

David and Rose lived in Denham Avenue, Stradey, Llanelli and he rose to the challenge when his community was threatened with a very negative transformation plan. The local elite rugby club needed money to clear their £9 million debts and build a new stadium worthy of their new regional status. A plan was hatched to build a huge residential housing project on the site of the Stradey Park Stadium and move the club to an out of town site. The scheme was led by Carmarthenshire County Council , and the Chief Executive promised that it would not cost the public a penny. In fact, it cost millions of pounds of public money.

David became one of the “Stradey 9” campaigners and as the chair of the Stradey Residents Association helped lead the campaign to save the rugby ground and the open spaces planned to be covered by hundreds of new homes. The site was a dangerous C2 flood plain that should never have been built on. The Welsh Government eventually went against its own planning policy and allowed the development. Carwyn Jones himself is on record in correspondence with Welsh Secretary Peter Hain in support of helping the Scarlets, rather than following the rules. During this planning struggle the terrible truth of the massive sewage pollution of the Burry Inlet, the estuary on which Llanelli sits, and the subsequent death of millions of cockles and other wildlife became apparent.

The sewage system had been inadequate since a new system had been installed in 1997 and sewage was frequently discharged without full treatment to stop back flooding into homes and streets. Eventually, after 2001, the level of human fertiliser in the water caused devastating problems with mass deaths of cockles occurring annually. House building clearly contributed to the sewage problem.

David Rees  on a local beach

Due to David and the other campaigners the number of homes to be built was reduced by a hundred to 350. The new homes were raised metres above the flood plain to keep them dry but leaving the existing, neighbouring dwellings at possible greater risk of flood. The open spaces of Stradey were covered not only by these new builds but also a large new primary school built on the “green wedge” despite promises to retain the land for community enjoyment. The area suffers from traffic congestion with long tailbacks at peak times, and air pollution. Both problems David correctly predicted.

David could not stop the building of all the new houses but he fiercely took up the case of the environmental pollution caused by the sewage discharges. Welsh government, the Environment Agency, Carmarthenshire County Council and Welsh Water Dwr Cymru all denied that there was any problem. David decided to take the case to the European Court.

Small notice at Llanelli Beach warning visitors to wash their hands - E Coli levels were high  and rising up to 2009 when Carmarthenshire County Council decided to stop testing the water and cover themselves by putting up this notice.

With the help of MEP Jill Evans he submitted the evidence of infringement of EU environmental law to the European Commissioner in 2006 who passed it on to the Court of Justice. He was joined later in the court action by the cockle pickers whose livelihood had been devastated. David was an active member of Llanelli Flood Forum, chaired by local MP Nia Griffiths who supported him in the cause but could not persuade her colleagues in the Welsh Government to stop the pollution before the court judgement against the UK in 2016.

David had to take the case against the UK Government even though they had not committed the Crime. The Welsh Government, who gave permission for the discharges, and the local County Council, who should have stopped all house building in the area, were primarily responsible.
Eventually the European Court found in David’s favour, exposing the true facts, the guilt of the regional government, and instructing that the situation must be addressed.

Stradey Park Housing Estate under construction

David was born in Llanelli on Saturday, the 23rd November 1940 to Ernest and Peggy Rees. His father was in the RAF during the war and died in Rhodesia in 1943 in what was termed a ‘friendly accident’ after 2 RAF planes collided. His mother then had the responsibility of bringing David up on her own and she did a great job. He went to Llanelli Grammar School and then started his trade as an electrician in Trostre Steel Works. He also went to a night class in electronics and later worked in Llanelli Steel Works and from 1975 worked for Rank Xerox repairing copy machines.

David met Rose, his wife, at a party in 1963 and they were to marry 10 years later in 1973. Their only son Conrad became a policeman and source of pride to them both.
David retired in 1998, but soon answered the call to be a local hero and to defend his community and our environment. David was not one to sing his own praises in life but we should remember him now as a true Llanelli hero.
warnings on Llanelli Beach 

It is a tragedy that David did not live to see the completion of the multimillion pound Llanelli “Rainscape” scheme which his actions forced WAG and Welsh Water Dwr Cymru to initiate in Llanelli after WWDC was judged to be shamelessly polluting the Loughor Estuary and Burry Inlet with hundreds of sewage discharges. The environmental damage, clearly supported by Welsh Government, Environment Agency Wales (now Natural Resources Wales) and Carmarthenshire County Council now has to stop. The scheme seeks to stop sewage discharges by separating ground water from the sewage system. It has not yet been completed and it will take several years before its impact will be seen.

Our Estuary was a protected wildlife area and major shellfish fishery. Due to the local council policy of massive house building and the deliberate cover up by WWDC and WAG millions of animals have died needlessly and a major industry has been lost. We have yet to see whether enough has been done to allow the area to recover. The pollution continued for almost 20 years before the European Court findings. David hated injustice and we should all hope that his legacy will be clean water and the long awaited return of the cockles and all the other rare species poisoned by human greed, callousness and very deliberate neglect by public bodies.

Many thanks to David's family for permission to write and publish this obituary and for the biographical details and photos of David.
Siân Caiach

Sunday 12 August 2018

Motive and opportunity - How was the CEO of Carmarthenshire County Council allowed to embark on a private vendetta using public money?

Government at all levels can wield power by funding policies, changing laws and prosecuting opponents. Governments, even local Unitary Authorities can  essentially have bottomless pockets when it comes to legal matters. This was certainly the case in the libel action defence and counter claim fully funded by Carmarthenshire County Council against Mrs Jacqui Thompson.  Mrs Thompson had been  critical of Carmarthenshire County Council  Eventually the Chief Executive, Mr Mark James, inexplicably made an inaccurate and quite vicious comment on the Madaxeman Blog, "on behalf of the Authority" but not apparently approved  by the Leader of Council prior to the action.

Mrs Thompson decided to sue the Council and Mr James for libel. The County Council decided to defend both themselves and the CEO in court, All of the planning for this legal action was made by Senior Council Officers and Senior Elected Councillors, in Camera, in secret, so that the public and the ordinary councillors were not informed.

Eventually the Wales Audit Office ruled that financing the Counter Claim by Council Chief Executive Officer Mark James was unlawful. The exempt documents show that the council allegedly had contacted the WAO before their decision meeting to fund Mr James in January 2012. The Executive  Board Councillors were seemingly never given at reply from The WAO. Why not?

There was good reason for secrecy and subterfuge. Had the other county councillors and the public known the full  details then there may have been enough protest to stop the huge spend of public money the Executive were planning in order to maintain the reputation of the Chief Officer, Mr Mark James .

Also, the Senior Officers and Executive Councillors knew that the case would not  be a straightforward libel action and counterclaim. It was vital that Mrs Thompson and her legal team would not know that a completely different legal angle, a non violent harassment by blogging,  would be the essence of the case, This meant that Mrs Thompson's defence would only find this out in court, probably have insufficient time to prepare a full rebuttal on this new issue and the County Council would triumph in punishing an irritating local resident who would surely be destroyed not only in reputation but by severe financial sanction.

This reason for secrecy is explained under "Implications" on page 5 of the minutes of this Agenda Report Item. Did any of the Exec Board read this? It was common practice that Exempt Documents were carefully collected from the meetings as you left and given out as close to meeting dates as possible.When I was a Councillor I used to sneakily photocopy those presented to me in full council,  for my own protection, and hand in the originals, but did the Exec Board? I doubt it. No wonder they can't remember exactly what they agreed to.

 Mrs Thompson, if she lost, clearly would not be very  likely to afford to pay back the Council's Costs or the full damages to Mr James. The executive board minutes show that the need for absolute secrecy was important and the reputation of the chief officer was to be their primary concern

It would be an example to all residents of Carmarthenshire County Council and especially protect the chief executive, Mark James from further criticism. Bloggers would have to self-censor carefully or have the County Council on their backs!

A great plan, but there were several possible obstacles. Could the senior county councillors be persuaded that they could actually do this? Was the reputation of the County Council Chief Executive so important that they had to do this? Unfortunately the members of the executive board appear hand picked for compliancy and total trust in the clever senior officers. Subsequently several have told me privately that they realise now that they were manipulated and one present on that day has even admitted that they no longer have any regard for the CEO. Mr James attended the whole of the meeting which gave him the funds to fight his case. The Wales Audit Office condemns this as wholly improper,

The decision to spend over a quarter of a million pounds of public money on the libel cases was taken in this closed meeting on the 23rd of January 2012. Council officers significantly outnumbered the elected members.

The main mover appears to be Head of Legal and Administration Linda Rees Jones at that time CCC's"Acting Head of Law and Administration" and also "Acting Monitoring Officer". Her legal report explains the crisis the Executive Board must address and the way that she believes local government law can be interpreted to allow the legal actions to be funded totally by the  taxpayers of Carmarthenshire. Subsequently she had the good fortune to obtain the permanent position in those posts.


(1) If an indemnity is not granted the Head of Paid Service would be personally liable for legal costs associated with those court proceedings

(2) The Authority owes its employees a duty of care and an indemnity to the Head of Paid Service in the circumstances of this case is proportionate and reasonable.

So, the main reasons are that the CEO is not to be allowed to fight his own battles, despite perhaps recklessly commenting on a blog.  Linda Rees Jones advises that paying the fees in this case is actually part of the duty of care the senior Councillors owe to their Chief Officer, the head of paid service, Mark James. 

But oops! Mr James wants to make a libel counter claim and that isn't allowed, surely??

Linda goes on to explain that the County Council is only indemnified to fight a libel action themselves, not a counter claim by a senior officer. The solicitors for both Mrs Thompson and CCC were on the point of agreeing a modest settlement of the libel claim. However, if this was accepted it would imply that Mr Mark James was perhaps at fault , having made a possibly defamatory statement about the Thompson Family on the Madaxeman Blog.

Linda has discovered a "catch all" clause - section 111 of the Local Government Act of 1972 which allows Authorities to do "anything" (whether or not involving expenditure...) which is calculated to facilitate or is conducive or incidental to the discharge of any of its functions".

 She also states that CCC had been advised back in 2008 that giving an indemnity to an officer was potentially lawful, but that it should only be exercised in exceptional circumstances.

Integrity and Reputation, states Ms Rees Jones, are Essential for Mr James to command respect, enable him to lead and undertake his duties.  The Executive Board were asked to decide whether this was to be regarded as "exceptional circumstances" and they apparently agreed . Defending the good name of the Chief Officer was to be regarded as a vital function of the County Council

 The executive board members I have spoken to claim they were given the impression that the threat of the counter claim would make the whole embarrassing matter "go away" as Mrs Thompson would surely back down. If so, why the secrecy and the admission  that a leading libel lawyer had already planned a new tack to ensure success?

Did they really agree to this without even being able to retain their copies of  Ms. Rees Jones' report? Were they given these documents on the day only or were they really given time to read, digest and even get a second opinion? It seems not.

There are 2 other parts of the report which stand out.

(h) .....It is unclear whether the other party has the financial means to meet any order for damages and/or costs that may be made.

So there was clear doubt that Mrs Thompson could pay any legal costs awarded against her and the secrecy meant that she had no idea that the new tactic to use her blog as evidence of a harassment campaign which would probably invalidate the insurance she had taken out,

(i)  The Head of Paid Service has confirmed that he is not motivated by a wish to benefit financially and that accordingly should his action be successful any damages awarded to him will be paid over to the authority and will not be kept by him.

Subsequently Mr James decided to take all the damages for himself, declined to accept  regular  affordable repayments and tried to force the sale of the Thompson's family home so he could get all of the money at once and make the family "intentionally homeless". 
The WAO report shows an email between Mr James and MS Rees Jones confirming the statement above prior to the meeting Was the change of heart pure malice or had he not, in his mind, made this promise, or was Ms Rees Jones mistaken? Maybe his financial circumstances had changed and he really needed the money?

Had Mr James not decided to pursue Mrs Thompson for his damages and left the matter to the County Council there would have been no court cases to force the sale of her home to recover her half of the capital in the bungalow after paying off the mortgage, while making the whole family homeless. Yes, he was awarded the damages and he had, by the documents now available to the public, promised them to the Council. He has not given the instalments he has collected to the Council.

 How is the reputation of this man regarded now? The people of Carmarthenshire have paid out thousands,ostensibly to protect his integrity and reputation ,which the document says are "essential in order for him to command respect, be able to lead and undertake his duties". however, he has gone back on a promise to donate any damages back to the County Council who generously fully funded the case he took out to obtain them - at least £40,000.

 He was present during the entire meeting where this report to fund his libel counter claim was presented and discussed. He had the opportunity to challenge Ms Rees Jones as to this undertaking, and make clear to the Councillors that it was not a binding promise by him. Surely as he was there, apparently in agreement on the report, the Councillors must have been  convinced that he truly was  going to donate any damages directly to the Council ?

Subsequently he has used the issue to persecute Mrs Thompson and has greatly increased the amount she now owes him, perfectly legally. He has put maximum interest on her debt and has forced her to engage in extra expensive court appearances rather than negotiate repayments out of court, then add his lawyers fees to her debt.

Mr James claims he had to make the statement on the Madaxeman Blog as he was invited to do so. I invite Mr James to explain why this apparently inaccurate statement, paragraph (i), was presented to the executive board? Did you change your mind, Mark , or was Linda mistaken in her description of your position?

I am waiting for your response,

. Siân Caiach

Wednesday 1 August 2018

The "Deep State" of Carmarthenshire -

The term "deep state" is used within political science to describe influential decision-making bodies believed to be within government who are relatively permanent and whose policies and long-term plans are unaffected by changing administrations. The term is often used in a critical sense vis-à-vis the general electorate to refer to the lack of influence popular democracy has on these institutions and the decisions they make as a shadow governmentsource : Wikipedia
Carmarthenshire County Hall  built on the original site of, and in the style of old Carmarthen Jail 

Carmarthenshire County Council is an elected body but widely thought to be "officer led" i.e, the civil servants  rather than the elected councillors seem to run the show. Although the political constitution of the council changes, the policy leadership seems to be firmly guided by senior officers.  Voters may chose the councillors but not the administration. Any effort to "rock the boat" and criticise the Council's policy can lead to resistance and even attack from this  very local " Deep State".
Councillors willing to collude are rewarded with positions which often enhance their salary. Councillors who interrogate the reasons for the often unusual council decisions and policies are dismissed as troublemakers.

There is little effort to disguise this process and as a County Councillor for 9 years prior to  May 2017, I was critical of this arrangement and over this period received nearly a 100 complaints against me personally, penned by the chief executive Mark Vincent James. and sent to the public services ombudsman. 

I've recently received a letter informing me that the Public Services Ombudsman has decided to take no action in respect of the matters investigated following the most recent complaints against me by Carmarthenshire County Council Chief Executive Mr Mark Vincent James C.B.E. on the basis of alleged numerous breaches of the "Councillors' Code". Mr James appears to have emphasised to  the press details of  the one issue, in his huge batch of complaints that the Ombudsman was critical of, even though he didn't wish to act on it. 

 This issue involved a junior officer sent down alone from the chief executives' office to the front desk of County Hall to deal with a symbolic "pound of flesh" demonstration. Although I was not the organiser or leader of the demonstration the Ombudman has a valid  point in that as I was present I should have asked the demonstrators to leave immediately when I saw the junior officer was very distressed, rather than asking the officer to decline the wrapped piece of meat so the group would leave. In a similar situation I would now certainly act differently and promptly.

The other 60 paragraphs of complaint with other issues brought up and the many sub clauses did not warrant any rebuke

The Complaint to the Ombudsman was made in January 2017, a few months before the Council Elections in that year. The same process was undertaken against me and my People First- Gwerin Gyntaf colleague Arthur Davies prior to the 2012 Council Elections with a couple of dozen complaints. Arthur was very badly affected by it and lost his seat in 2012. 

The ombudsman in his general annual report remarks that complaints against Councillors tend to peak before local government elections.
 This is presumably to discourage opponents from standing or blacken their reputations as the electorate can be told , quite honestly, by a rival team that Councillor X is "under investigation". I am aware of having some negative comments said about me on the doorstep implying improper conduct in 2017 and I narrowly lost my county councillor seat. 

Positively this has loss given me the time to fully take on other roles and after waiting 18/12 for a verdict the recent "no action" ruling by the Ombusdman has been a great relief. Any uncertainty can be stressful,  and facing complaints so numerous that I cannot even remember them all has been disconserting.

The vast majority of complaints under the Councillors' code of conduct are made by other Councillors, not civil servants or members of the public. It is Community Councillors rather than County Councillors which are the largest group complained about. 98% of complaints are adjudicated in less than 12 months. Both complaints to the Ombudsman concerning me took 18 months to be closed, both with no action needing to be taken. 3 years of my life under Ombudsman's investigation!.

Having a complaint made against you is stressful, even if the the majority of evidence submitted against you appears trivial or inaccurate. The Councillors Code of Conduct is open to interpretation.  Specialist legal advice is expensive and beyond my means. Lengthy complaints force you to spend a lot of time thinking about and preparing rebuttal evidence. In this case it took months even for the Ombudsman to decide which complaints to actually investigate. In the end, only 5 made the grade.

The Obudsman's advice to County Councillors is clear. Try to resolve the matter locally .
"If a County Councillor wishes to make a complaint about another County Councillor within their own authority, I expect them to first of all make their complaint to that authority’s Monitoring Officer, as it may be possible to resolve the matter locally without my involvement  "

This advice is not given to Council Officers who are complaining about a councillor.  In my case, my accuser, Mr Mark James, did not contact me to resolve these complaints. I suspect the Monitoring Officer was probably involved in drawing up the complaint which is likely to have been  prepared with advice from her County Council legal team. If you want to complain to the Ombudsman about a public service such as a school, you have to contact them, and go through the full  complaints procedure and still be not satisfied with the response before the Ombudsman even considers your complaint. A Councillor's Code of Conduct  complaint goes straight to the Ombudsman.

 A  County Council's Monitoring Officer is a paid officer with duties to the Ombudsman, usually the head of Administration and Law or equivalent and subordinate to the Chief Executive. In Carmarthenshire she is Linda Rees Jones 

 When I was a Carmarthenshire County Councillor she was instrumental, for example in dismissing my complaint  when I by chance discovered the instructions of the Chief Executive to the  IT department to covertly monitor and log  my emails. To her it was perfectly fine and legal. For the purposes of this action I would be regarded as an ordinary employee, presumably suspected of misuse of my Council Computer.. However the rules on monitoring emails of staff clearly state they should be informed.  She saw no reason to inform me of this surveillance and was clearly complicit in the whole matter.. How can you complain to the Monitoring Officer when as head of Administration she has already decided  that it is perfectly proper to monitor your email correspondence without informing you? How can you report her to herself?

I don't blame the monitoring officer, after all her job security, salary grade and career progression is largely in the hands of the Chief Executive. However, the Monitoring Officer should be independent as she represents, in theory, the Ombudsman. Where Officers superior to her, and/especially she herself is involved, she cannot be expected to be impartial.

If elections actually mattered, this man, the Plaid Cymru Group Leader , Councillor Emlyn Dole would actually be in charge. I don't think he is.

                                    Emlyn Dole "at work" in county Hall

The motivation behind the many complaints against me is,I think is clear and will examine in detail in my next blog together with more about Emlyn.

.                                                                                                           Siân Caiach